Georgia’s Youth Empowered to Resist Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs

November 3, 2014

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) joined the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) in promoting events during last week’s kick-off for Red Ribbon Week, a national week to recognize national efforts aimed at reducing the number of minors using and abusing tobacco, alcohol, drugs and prescriptions.

In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBSS) to monitor health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among youth and adults. Georgia’s data indicated positive trends in the continued reduction of the state’s youth utilizing alcohol and tobacco products.

According to the survey, 82 percent of Georgia high school students did not drink alcohol before age 13. Additionally, the YRBSS shows that students who had their first drink of alcohol other than a few sips before age 13 years old have decreased over the past decade from 29.5 percent to 18.1 percent. Georgia’s rate of alcohol use among students is lower than the national rate of 18.6 percent.

Georgia is also on track to reach the Healthy People 20/20 objective of reducing use of any tobacco product by adolescents to 21 percent. Healthy People 20/20, organized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is a national health promotion and disease prevention agenda designed to improve the health of all American citizens by 2020. The CDC’s youth risk behavior survey shows that Georgia students who smoked cigarettes or cigars or used chewing tobacco, snuff, or dip decreased from 26.1 percent to 19.4 percent.

Reducing drug and alcohol remains a high priority in Georgia and the Red Ribbon Week celebrations help to coordinate and disseminate messages to students, schools, parents, stakeholders and agencies year round.

“Red Ribbon Week brings schools and communities together to demonstrate their commitment to living drug-free,” said Frank W. Berry, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD). “We coordinate Georgia’s Red Ribbon Campaign on behalf of Governor Nathan Deal, whose strong leadership in fighting the epidemic of alcohol and drug abuse provides an excellent framework for this awareness program. We celebrate Red Ribbon Week each October as a key part of our year-round focus on providing safe community activities as alternatives to drinking and using other drugs.”

The Department of Public Health (DPH) observed Red Ribbon Week through its annual Healthy Youth Summit, presented by its Chronic Disease Prevention program. The weekend-long event was presented in partnership with Youth Empowered Solutions, an organization specializing in youth advocacy and policy development, to train more than 130 students and adults in implementing policies that reduce tobacco use among teens as well as increase access to healthier food options.

Red Ribbon Week is also an opportunity to recognize key stakeholders and partners throughout the state making positive strives in promoting healthier behaviors in the youth like Gwinnett United in Drug Education (GUIDE), a local organization that provides a comprehensive, coordinated and proactive approach to reduce and prevent substance use and abuse.

GUIDE has effectively targeted local youth in its efforts by creating the first Georgia Teen Institute, a leadership and prevention program for middle and high school students, and the Gwinnett Mobilizing for Change in Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs (ATOD) initiative, which provide a comprehensive approach for strategies to achieve community-level change in alcohol, tobacco and other drug issues.

“We know that prevention makes a difference,” said Jessica Andrews-Wilson, executive director of GUIDE. “We’ve seen the power that prevention has in communities over the last 28 years. If more communities and individuals were invested, we would see even more positive outcomes around decreasing substance abuse in Georgia.”

Learn more about Red Ribbon Week online at and see how Georgia students observe by viewing DBHDD’s website which contains photos and videos of statewide Red Ribbon Week celebrations.


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